Friday, March 26, 2010

Paul Pena - Paul Pena (self-titled debut), 1972

Blind San Francisco bluesman Paul Pena penned "Jet Airliner", which Steve Miller re-jiggered for a huge hit. The royalties from that alone probably kept Pena alive for years longer than his fragile constitution might otherwise have been able to hold out. He finally achieved long-overdue recognition as an artist in 1999 with the release of Genghis Blues, a fascinating documentary relating how Paul was introduced to the exotic Tuvan throat-singing technique in the wake of his wife's death, and improbably, learned it almost instantly as a vehicle for expressing his grief. He mastered it so completely that he traveled halfway around the world to Tuva itself -- no small feat in itself for an ill and disabled man -- and went on to win an international competition. If you haven't seen the film, you must if you care about music. The soundtrack album is great too, featuring Paul melding his newfound throat-singing chops with his natural, acoustic blues-rock style, with plainspoken, personal lyrics just like "Airliner"'s.

Once Pena had some buzz upon the film's release, his never-released album New Train was issued in 2000, and was a revelation. The album was produced by Steve Miller Band member Ben Sidran -- who turned Miller on to Pena's tune; the contrast between Pena's organic original and Miller's juggernaut is fascinating -- and features guest spots from Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders. Pena's soulful songwriting, singing, and picking cast a spell here. It's simply a classic '70s album, reminiscent of nothing so much as Van Morrison's Moondance. Get it and impress your friends.

Far more obscure is Pena's self-titled first album, released by Capitol in 1972, which is long out of print and has never been reissued on CD or LP. It's not quite the masterpiece that is New Train, but it satisfyingly introduces Pena's gifts of straightforward folk-blues songwriting and soulful vocals. This album's hard to find online. I'm frankly not sure where I got this 250Kbps rip of it; if you recognize it as yours, thank you VERY much, and please credit yourself in the comments! On this terrific post from a blog called Music Maven, the album's tracks stream individually, along with New Train and Genghis Blues tracks and video clips. While it once had a home on the great Time Has Told Me blog, it seems to be currently unavailable for download anywhere on the web, so The Rare Stuff it is! Enjoy, and remember, comments, clicks, Amazon purchases through the above links, or donations are always appreciated.

Paul Pena passed away in 2005. I had the wonderful opportunity to meet him a few years prior to that, and he was a remarkably gentle soul in a remarkably fragile body. He was no monk though, and his other senses were sharp indeed -- he grabbed my lovely young then-girlfriend and pulled her in for a very snug hug before she knew what hit her! Rest in peace, Paul, and I'm glad to help share your music.

Elvis Costello and Friends (Death Cab For Cutie, Fiona Apple, Billie Joe Armstrong) - VH1 Decades Rock Live 5/19/06 Trump Taj Mahal, Atlantic City

Posting's been light, to say the least, and I still have to gather a few loose ends before I share the next installment of Elvis Costello gap-pluggers. And I'll be away for ten days so it won't be up 'til I get back.

In the meantime, here's an interesting show with Elvis and the Imposters and guests Death Cab For Cutie, Fiona Apple, and Billie Joe Armstrong. This is not the complete concert, but the songs broadcast on VH1. In the gap-plugger post, I plan to share the withdrawn iTunes single of Fiona's killer version of I Want You, which here shares a single track with another song. Meanwhile, here's an enjoyable set with some unusual material... or should I say, some Rare Stuff!

Tracks [AUDIO ONLY]:

Accidents Will Happen - Elvis Costello & Death Cab For Cutie

I Will Follow You Into The Dark - Elvis Costello & Ben Gibbard

Kinder Murder - Death Cab For Cutie

Shabby Doll - Elvis Costello & The Imposters w/Fiona Apple

I Know - Elvis Costello & The Imposters

Tymps (The Sick in the Head Song)/I Want You - Elvis Costello & The Imposters w/Fiona Apple

Wake Me Up When September Ends - Elvis Costello & The Imposters w/Billie Joe Armstrong

Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)/Alison - Elvis Costello & Billie Joe Armstrong

No Action - Elvis Costello & The Imposters w/Billie Joe Armstrong

Basket Case/Radio Radio/Pump It Up - Elvis Costello & The Imposters w/Billie Joe Armstrong

(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding - Elvis Costello & The Imposters w/all guests

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Neil Young 4-Part EPstravaganza! Eldorado, Mansion on the Hill, The Complex Sessions, Merkinball (with Pearl Jam)

Here's a fistful of EPs charting Neil Young's career resurgence in the late '80s through the mid-'90s. Following years of confounding inconsistency during his tenure on the Geffen label, the Japan-only 5-track Eldorado marked Neil's return to the legendary Reprise label for which he'd cut his most enduring early work. Three songs here were later remixed for the ensuing Freedom album, which firmly planted the comeback flag, and two -- "Cocaine Eyes" and "Heavy Love" -- appear nowhere else.

That comeback flag was hoisted again and hurled, javelin-like, into the face of music-biz complacency by Freedom's follow-up and the return of Crazy Horse, Ragged Glory. The Mansion on the Hill CD single added a "single version" of that album track and an instrumental charmingly titled "Don't Spook the Horse".

After following Ragged Glory with the live "Arc/Weld" set, and returning to acousticville with Harvest Moon and Unplugged, Neil and Crazy Horse recorded the underrated Sleeps With Angels album in 1994. Part of the promotion of that project included a 4-song live video release called The Complex Sessions; a very limited number of promo EPs of the four tracks were released and I was fortunate to win one in an online contest.

Sleeps With Angels' title track, a Cobain eulogy, was one way in which Neil Young responded to being called the "godfather of grunge"; the other was collaborating with Pearl Jam on the great (and also somewhat underrated) 1995 album Mirror Ball. Two additional tracks cut during those sessions, but with Eddie Vedder rather than Neil on lead vocals, were released as the Merkinball EP. "The Long Road" is a different version than the one Vedder cut with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan on the Dead Man Walking soundtrack around the same time.

Here they all are on The Rare Stuff, as one 13-song file, encoded at 320 for your aural pleasure. Enjoy -- and please leave comments, I'm getting lonely here!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Elvis Costello Trainspotter Gap-Plugger Extravaganza Part 1.5: Special St. Patrick's Day Edition!

It's been a week since I've posted anything here, and I don't have too much time tonight, so here's just a quickie pre-St. Patrick's Day 6-song Elvis Costello post. Not the 20-song batch which comprised our EC Trainspotter Gap-Plugger Part 1 post, so I've called this 1.5. Plenty more coming in parts 2 and 3, fret not!

Meanwhile, a half-dozen hard-to-find Costello tracks with their Irish up. To wit:

The MacManus Gang: A Town Called Big Nothing; 3 versions; 1987 single featuring Elvis' then-wife Cait O'Riordan, his dad Ross MacManus on trumpet, and Attractions Steve and Pete. Weird fake-spaghetti-western-soundtrack song, but Irish band name/members!

All This Useless Beauty - Live from 6A: Great Musical Performances from Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Recorded May 21, 1996; w/Steve Nieve. O'Brien, he's Irish, right?

Many Rivers to Cross - Brilliant Attractions cover of Jimmy Cliff classic from the Live for Ireland anti-heroin charity concert CD (actual concert title was Self-Aid) from 1986.

And finally the absolute gem of this little collection:

Long Journey Home (Anthem) - Elvis Costello with Anuna. Co-written with Paddy Moloney of the Chieftains, this stirring anthem was the title song of a documentary celebrating Irish-American history. Jimmy Fallon recently sang a bit of this in harmony with Elvis on his recent appearance on Late Night; you can track it down at the show's section of NBC's website. Add this to your St. Pat's mix, and hoist a glass of Jameson's or Guinness and wave it to and fro. Happy St. Patrick's Day from The Rare Stuff!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Pete Townshend & Raphael Rudd: The Oceanic Concerts (Live 1969/1970)

For once, I can't come up with anything especially original to say. So here's the great 2001 release of selections from two 1969/1970* 1979/1980 Christmastime concerts by Pete Townshend with Rafael Rudd at Eel Pie in London, benefits for the Meher Baba Oceanic group. It's a beautiful document of Pete's softer side. Rudd plays solo on 7 of the 18 tracks here; I've included them to keep or discard at your discretion. Of the others, 8 are duets, and the remaining 3 are Pete solo. The disc is no longer available new, copies are changing hands for dozens of dollars, so here it is on The Rare Stuff, complete with (a TRS first!) full cover scans @600dpi, including Rudd's liner notes wherein he explains his relationship with Pete and the story behind these concerts.

Comments appreciated, as are Paypal gifts (?) and/or investigations of the commercial messages featured in the right column...

Raga Raphael Rudd
Drowned Pete Townshend
The Seeker Pete Townshend
Magic Grace Raphael Rudd
Who Is Meher Baba? Raphael Rudd
The Ferryman Pete Townshend & Raphael Rudd
Kitty's Theme Raphael Rudd
A Little Is Enough Pete Townshend & Raphael Rudd
Contact In Solitude Raphael Rudd
Sleeping Dog Pete Townshend & Raphael Rudd
Sound Barrier Raphael Rudd
Bargain Pete Townshend
Longing For The Beloved Raphael Rudd
Tattoo Pete Townshend & Raphael Rudd
Let My Love Open The Door Pete Townshend & Raphael Rudd
Awakening Pete Townshend & Raphael Rudd
Western (American) Arti Pete Townshend & Raphael Rudd
O' Parvardigar Pete Townshend & Raphael Rudd

*Thanks to commenter Tangled Up in Blue for pointing out the date error - and sharing his own memory of these concerts!

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Everly Brothers: Manchester Apollo, May 24, 1997

There are precious few live recordings of the legendary Everly Brothers, either on official releases, or in the bootleg world. A recording circulates online from Jones Beach in 1984, on the verge of the release of their great comeback album, EB/84. That tape's a little distant-sounding, but it's a great setlist and performance. But this is a recording I found as a CD-R and have never seen elsewhere. I love the Everlys' classic period, of course -- who doesn't? -- but I really like what came after, too, everything from the mid-'60s on. But this is about as "after" as it gets, at least as far as live recordings that I know of go, and they still sound as great as ever. The setlist, of course, is mostly early hits, but at least they throw in "Bowling Green" from what I'll call the early middle period.

As far as official live albums, The Everly Brothers Show is a great live album from 1970, featuring a wild 18-minute medley that takes in Chuck Berry, Tim Hardin, "Aquarius" from Hair, and Abbey Road's "The End", plus another Beatles cover in "Hey Jude" -- that one in a medley with "Susie Q"! A really interesting, surprising show. The Everlys adapted better to the post-Beatles era than any other '50s artists, perhaps because of their youth, as well as how indebted the Beatles' and Simon and Garfunkel's harmonies were to Don and Phil's. The other live album in release is their Reunion Concert album from 1983, which comes in so many off-brand incarnations I'm not sure which to recommend. Some have annoying breaks between tracks, fading in and out of applause. Others come in two separate "volumes", and then there are abridged versions too. It's a great performance, though, and worth tracking down if you can find a good release.

You'll want to surf on over to Nathan's Rock Moat to find the aforementioned 1984 show. That 1984 show is now here. Meanwhile, enjoy this concert, and rock 'n' roll with The Rare Stuff!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sly & The Family Stone: Fresh (Withdrawn 1991 "Demo" Version)

In 1991, Sony/Columbia issued Sly & the Family Stone's last great album, Fresh, on CD. But it soon became apparent that something strange had transpired. Here is the current Wikipedia entry's take on what happened:

"...Stone held on to the Fresh masters well beyond the record's official release, constantly remixing and re-recording the tracks. As a result, alternate and significantly different versions of at least ten songs from the album are known to exist. In 1991, Sony Music, by then owner of the Epic catalog, accidentally issued a sequencing of Fresh on CD featuring alternate takes of every song except "In Time", which remained unchanged. Sony allowed the alternate version to remain in stores to be bought up by fans and then later issued the standard 1973 version of the album. However, the mix-up sparked debate among fans over which release was superior. When Sony BMG reissued Fresh in CD and digital download formats for Sly & the Family Stone's 40th anniversary, five alternate mixes were included as bonus tracks. These tracks are extremely similar, if not identical, to the alternate, accidental 1991 release. The alternate version is known to be very accessible in Japan, while it is very scarce in the U.S.."

The tracks from the '91 release duplicated (or nearly so) as bonus tracks on the new version are Let Me Have It All, Frisky, Skin I'm In, Keep On Dancin', and Babies Makin' Babies. The other six tracks here are unavailable elsewhere. I searched for this version online and only found it at one blog, and one which hadn't been updated in two years, at that. It's listed there as "Fresh (Alternate Demo Version", too, which I think may not identify it clearly enough for some to find it. So, while I prefer to post items unavailable ANYwhere else on the web, I think all the above qualifies this disc as some of The Rare Stuff. Granted, it can be had for cheap on Amazon, but for that matter, so can the remastered version from last year. Meanwhile, enjoy!

UPDATE: Link removed when it became clear that the standard version had been uploaded by mistake. I'm sorry for the confusion, all who have downloaded it from here! 

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mary Margaret O'Hara LIVE on the BBC, 11/16/1989 

After a busy first week, we've ended up taking a week's hiatus here on TRS. Now let's get back down to it!

This isn't the post where I make the case for how great Ms. Mary Margaret is and how urgent it is that you get to know her only album, the unique, loopy gem Miss America. This post is mostly for those who already know, and already have so gotten, though it's also a fine place to begin your acquaintance.

And since Miss A. is Miss O's sole full-length release, aficionados will delight to discover this great, full-length concert from London's Dominion Theatre, as broadcast on the BBC. I found this on a torrent with the following credit: "Capture, Transfer & Artwork by JTT" who taped this off BBC radio and shared it. So thank you very VERY much, JTT! However, it's not to be found elsewhere online, so it deserves its spot here on The Rare Stuff; I hope Mr. T doesn't mind. The Miss America album itself is out of print and starting to climb in price (though still affordable used), but it's a bit more widely available online. If there are enough requests, though, I could make it available here as well.

Anyway, we've finally broken our string of moody, wordy white British men -- with a quirky white Canadian gal! Fun fact I just learned -- Mary Margaret is the sister of SCTV comedienne and actress Catherine O'Hara!